Helping the helpers: Supporting Moldovans in their extraordinary response to the war in Ukraine

Published: Jan 16, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
Helping the helpers: Supporting Moldovans in their extraordinary response to the war in Ukraine
© Photo: Tereza Hronova

Around 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine are currently staying in Moldova, a country with its own challenges, so financial support is more than welcome. People in Need (PIN), funded by the European Union, is helping two local organisations and hundreds of households host refugees.

More than 100 people from Ukraine, mostly children, have been staying for months in the Refugee Accommodation Centre (RAC) in Glodeni, Moldova. Formerly a school, it now serves as a shelter. There is only one room for children to play; most face war trauma and need psychosocial support. 

"I work with children who lost their fathers in the war, which is tough. They can't sleep, which often leads to psychological problems," says Anastasia Russu, a psychologist from People in Need.

She visits the RAC regularly with the mobile team from PIN's partner organisation, Clinica Juridică.

While children are occupied with drawing, their parents can take the opportunity to visit a lawyer from Clinica Juridică to discuss any potential legal problems. Mostly they ask how to get a passport—if they don't have one or it's expired. But Ion Danoi helps them with other issues.

"They ask questions about property, about employment, about signing employment contracts," Ion says.

Assistance provided by local organisations for Ukrainians

The current project—implemented by Clinica Juridică—is aimed at assisting and counselling refugees in 13 districts in the north of Moldova. "The assistance provided is based on mobile services. We respond immediately to people's needs where they live, eliminating the expense and stress of searching for services and information," explains Olesea Tabarcea, CEO of Clinica Juridică.

The public association "Biaz Gul", another organisation in partnership with PIN, covers the south of Moldova. Biaz Gul—which means White Rose—has long-term experience providing social support to vulnerable groups, such as people with HIV and tuberculosis, mothers with many children, sexually abused women, and victims of domestic violence. When refugees from Ukraine arrived in Comrat, the capital of the Gagauzia autonomous region, Biaz Gul's services changed. 

"The war is a serious problem, and as representatives of civil society, we could not stay aside," says Svetlana Gheorghieva, the Director of Biaz Gul.

"Since March 2022, we have also helped people from Ukraine with food, hygiene supplies, and cleaning packages. However, the most important goal is to provide information," notes Aliona Cara, a psychologist with the mobile team.

Biaz Gul formed two mobile teams consisting of a psychologist, a lawyer, and a social worker. The latter gives general information and works with people who need individual assistance. At the information sessions, most questions related to legal status in Moldova or healthcare and compensated medicines. From August to November, about 430 women and children have benefited from psychological support services provided by the mobile teams.

Supporting hosting households thanks to the EU

Many Ukrainians are staying in private homes. Ordinary Moldovans have warmly welcomed them, but as the war drags on, the expenses of the host households increase. Thanks to EU humanitarian funding, we have financially supported 2,514 households in 15 districts of the country. 

One beneficiary of this support is Liubovi Talan from the city of Balti. Life has not always been kind to her—her husband and daughter were seriously ill, and she often lacks the money to pay family bills. The energy crisis and poverty in the county don't make her life easier. 

Despite this, she decided to help others and offer refugees a room in her flat. "They call each other and inform each other. I live at the bus station, they already know. They call, tell us who they are, and ask if we'll accommodate them. Of course, we will. Some stay longer, some stay less. Some leave immediately, and others stay for a shorter period," Liubovi describes.

Hosting households receive 3.900 MDL (€188) if they host up to four refugees and 4.800 MDL (€232) if five or more are hosted. Thanks to the cash support from PIN, Liubovi was able to pay extra costs and cover utilities.

"The recent crises—the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy crisis, which increased living costs— pose serious challenges to the population of Moldova, and the war in neighbouring Ukraine has brought even more difficulties, forcing thousands of people to seek refuge here. The financial assistance from the European Union arrived just in time, enabling us to help families hosting Ukrainian refugees and thus reducing uncertainty in local communities. Often, the families receiving this aid used the money to cover their expenses while still providing housing and support to those fleeing the war by paying their bills and buying food or medicine. All of these efforts improved how people cope with the current situation," says Georgiana Cremene – Country Director of People in Need in Moldova.

This project is funded by the European Union.
Autor: Tereza Hronova, Karolina Sugarova

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